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Intuitive Eating is Not a Hunger/Fullness Diet

Woman eating in her kitchen. Text overlay says "intuitive eating is not a hunger/fullness diet"

Is it wrong to eat when you’re not physically hungry? 

Did you fail if you ate so much that you feel too full? 

Are you a bad planner if you went too hungry between meals? 

No, no and no. Because we’re so used to diet culture, sometimes it’s easier to translate the concepts of intuitive eating into another diet — a hunger/fullness diet — rather than work toward true food freedom. Especially if you like rules and structure, you may be using hunger cues as another dieting tool.

Intuitive eating is not a hunger/fullness diet.

Intuitive eating is about more than just satisfying physical hunger. Eating is a complex, emotional experience that is tied intimately to our cultural and social behaviors, and it should be enjoyable! You are not a bad person if you eat when you’re several ticks above ravenous on the hunger/fullness scale.

Circumstances sometimes require going hungry for a bit longer than we may want (I’m not talking about fasting before a beach outing or special event — that is what we’re working away from) or eating past comfortable fullness. This happens to all of us and it doesn’t mean we failed at intuitive eating. It means we’re normal and going with the ebb and flow of life.

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Here are some examples: 

    • If you’re going to be somewhere for awhile without access to food or unable to eat a snack, you might purposefully overeat beforehand or eat when not hungry.
    • If someone is food insecure and isn’t sure where their next meal is coming from, it makes a lot of sense for them to overeat when they get the chance.
    • When you have a special meal planned at a particular time and want to be hungry so you can enjoy it as much as possible and aren’t able to fit in a snack beforehand.
    • Who eats dessert to satisfy their physical hunger? Food brings pleasure and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
    • During physical endeavors such as backpacking and ultramarathoning, physical hunger cues can be thrown off due to physical exertion, altitude, potential dehydration and other factors. Sometimes it’s imperative to eat even when you don’t feel hungry.
    • Some people who have eating disorders, particularly anorexia, have hunger and fullness cues that are out of whack. They may need to eat when not hungry or past their point of comfortable fullness. 

The point is: life isn’t perfect, hunger and fullness cues aren’t perfect, and we live in a modern environment that sometimes requires us to eat when not hungry, eat past fullness or go hungry for extended periods of time. 

Two happy women eating and talking in a kitchen. Text overlay says "intuitive eating is about more than satisfying physical hunger"

Intuitive eating is a journey and it’s not about eating in a way that is “right” or “wrong.”

When we are used to restricting foods and then give yourself permission to enjoy them, there can be a period of overeating those foods before you find balance. This is totally normal. Stick with it and remember the 10 principles of intuitive eating.

Eat in a way that feels good. Physically, mentally and emotionally. As an anti-diet registered dietitian and self-care coach, I help people discover ways to best meet their needs within their circumstances and preferences. 

If you’re struggling to give yourself unconditional permission to eat and letting go of judgmental thoughts when it comes to food, send me a message and we can discuss coaching options that work for you!

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